What is backup and recovery software?

Backup software is software that facilitates the copying of information from a local server like your computer or your company’s on-site servers to a computer or server in another location. Recovery software is cloud software that you access to restart your applications should the local versions of those applications be destroyed. The combination of backup and recovery software brings you full protection from data loss or disaster. It backs your data up to a remote location, and ensures that the data or applications are accessible if the computers they run on are destroyed. The aim of backup and recovery software is to make applications and information accessible from anywhere with the passwords, even if the original computers or servers have been swept away in a flood or destroyed in a fire.

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Why is it important to have backup systems?

Backup and recovery software ensures that all of that critical data your company makes, uses, and retains remains in your hands and available when you need it. This software manages the transfer of information from your computer to secure locations in the cloud or physical servers in multiple time zones and locations. Backup systems are like insurance. They guard against the eventual computer virus, tornado, hurricane, or roof leak in the server room that could put your company out of business. Without a backup copy of your files, you are playing a dangerous game with your data.

You need backup software when

  • You have a lot of data that you don’t want to lose.
  • You store customer information outside of a CRM, ecommerce platform, or sales software.
  • You don’t have enough data to necessitate a data warehouse or other enterprise-level software solution.
  • You need to archive your data for regulatory or legal purposes.

You need recovery software when

  • Your company may need to recover deleted or corrupted data for regulatory or legal purposes.
  • You store your data in an on-premise server.
  • Your company needs to pull corrupted employee files from damaged laptops, computers, mobile devices, or servers.

Technology trends impacting backup and recovery software

Business intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) is rapidly becoming the most important department in any growth-focused company. While software developers make applications and the rest of the company makes data, business intelligence tells companies what to do with all of that data. As the hunger for succinct analysis of business data grows, so does the need to store the data that feeds the analytic machine. Business intelligence analysts need data to aggregate and draw conclusions that then drive business decisions. In order to do their jobs well, business intelligence analysts prefer a long history and wide range of data sets to build their models on. Backup and recovery software ensures that your business has access to the data it needs to build those BI insights.


Failover as a concept has been around since the 1960s, but virtual machines (VMs) have made the practice both commonplace and nearly seamless. Failover lines up several backup computers to be at the ready to spin up should the original fail. It requires the company to replicate and connect applications and databases in multiple locations on multiple servers so that when an event disrupts the current version in use another version can start up with little downtime.

Data Encryption

With so many data breaches making the news these days, business owners get understandably nervous when developers start talking about storing critical business data in the cloud. When you purchase space in the cloud, you buy space on another company’s computers. It sounds scary, but security measures like encryption ensure your data stays safe. Many backup software systems provide encryption in transit and at rest to secure the data you store. Be sure to check whether the connections to servers and databases are secured to guard against man-in-the-middle attacks, where cybercriminals attempt to access your data by intercepting communications between a computer and a server..

Data retention

Data retention policies ensure that complete copies of data are saved in a secure location for archival, legal, or security purposes. Commonly used in financial services, government, or healthcare firms where digital communications are audited for legal or regulatory oversight. Companies in highly-regulated industries will find that data retention is good policy and likely required. A good backup software will replicate and store data in the background while business tasks continue, providing easy data retention across the entire company.

Common backup and recovery software features


Backup can take several forms, but all of the versions of backup make copies of a computer, a set of files, or a directory and save that to a remote location. Backups can run on a regular schedule like every week or every night, or they can run at the user’s request.

Real-time backup

Real-time backup makes a new backup copy of your data whenever the data is changed in a software program. This uses up a lot of computing power, but it’s incredibly important for companies that track millions of changes to their data every day. Because of the granular changes tracked by real-time backups, the company can restore the version of their data at nearly any point in time. That gives the company an incredible amount of control over their data, but it comes at a pretty high cost of increased infrastructure load.

Continuous backup

Continuous backups make a copy of the data automatically at a set interval, usually every 5-10 minutes. This provides a middle-ground between manually initiated backups and real-time backups where the technical load is lower than with real-time but the data continuity is higher than manual backups. Companies with a mid-level amount of data movement and change might consider continuous backup for many of their systems, as it will cost less and cause less technical strain on the company’s infrastructure than real-time backups.

Disc cloning software

A software that clones a disc makes a complete copy of the disc to store in a separate location. So, if you were to clone your hard drive, the secondary location would have a complete version of your hard drive including all of the files, applications, and any supporting code.

Disc imaging

A disc image is a copy of a drive that is saved in a remote location, but doesn’t contain the software that’s required to boot the drive. An image can be used to replicate the original computer if it is run on a hard drive, but won’t automatically run on the new drive like a cloned drive. Because it doesn’t contain the boot software, a disc image is more lightweight and takes up less space when stored than a cloned disc. While a cloned drive is a one-to-one copy of a drive, several disc images can be saved on a single hard drive or on another archival device like a USB drive.


Replication is the process of copying a database to one or more alternate locations. Replication lets backup and recovery programs failover seamlessly to maintain constant uptime. Most backup and recovery software available for purchase replicates data across several servers or databases in different locations to increase uptime.


Recovery software attempts to rescue deleted or overwritten data. When you delete a file from your computer, that data through goes several stages before it’s no longer accessible. Recovery software attempts to reconstruct the pathways to the missing data and salvage the remaining information that hasn’t been written over.

Logs and history

Backup logs and history files show when backups and recoveries have occurred and what was backed up or recovered in each of the instances. Logs are helpful for IT to understand what may have gone wrong in a backup, or to pinpoint to what version a backup should revert.

Why choose backup or recovery software over other options?

Some companies sell backup and recovery software separately, but because they perform two closely related functions, companies often bundle them for customer convenience.

No backup or recovery plan

You wouldn’t drive without car insurance, so why run your company without data insurance? Backup and recovery tools ensure that your data is accessible when you most need it. Customer information, patents, marketing assets, and sales contracts are all at risk if you don’t back up your data. Companies that fail to replicate and archive their data consistently gamble with the future of their company.


There are a lot of advantages to keeping records on paper, but in today’s digital world those advantages pale in comparison to the searchability and portability of digital assets. Converting your business data to digital files and backing those files up means that you never lose the information they contain, even if your office gets hit by a tornado or the water cooler leaks all over the file room.

On-site servers

Most backup software will replicate your data across several different servers that exist in different locations. So, should the backup company’s servers in Kansas City go down, their servers in Virginia, Versailles, or Seoul will spin up, and you can still access your customer information. If you store your data in on-site servers, it’s susceptible to the same disasters that could affect your physical office building, without any backups should the building burn down.

Data warehousing

Companies who produce millions of data points every day and need to access it may consider choosing a data warehouse instead of backup software. Backup and recovery software solutions are helpful for small and mid-sized businesses who produce lower levels of data, while enterprise companies may find they have greater control by managing data warehouses.

What you should look for in enterprise vs. SMB backup and recovery software

Enterprise backup and recovery software

Enterprise companies will want to look into ways to secure the data that all of your employees create on their laptops and in their software. There’s no need to further duplicate data that’s stored through software as a service (SaaS) tools like Salesforce or Marketo where you pay to store your data on their servers using the software’s backup and recovery protocols. However, enterprise corporations will want to consistently back up employee laptops and mobile devices, manufacturing and shipping data, contracts, patents, and other business-critical data that would put the company’s daily operations at risk if lost.

Mid-level and SMB backup and recovery software

Depending on your data sizes, a commercially available cloud storage solution like Dropbox is enough. Some companies have only a couple of gigabytes of data to back up, such as their employee files, invoicing, and tax information. For these companies, it may be worthwhile to sync to the cloud from individual computers to a low-capacity storage solution. Small businesses that deal with a lot of data in their customer records or who provide data as a service will need to check on some of the more advanced backup and storage solutions.